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Hygiene While Overlanding

When you're on an overlanding trip, chances are you're going to find yourself way out in the middle of nowhere and wouldn't you know it, there aren't many bathrooms out in the middle of nowhere... at least, none with the amenities you would typically enjoy back home! So how does an overlander take care of business, and hygiene in general, on the road?


When nature calls, you really have to answer the call. You can't hold it forever but you may be on the trail so what do you do?

  1. Stop in a town or a nearby campground if permitted. If you are able, your best bet for a comfortable bathroom would be in a nearby town or a campground with nice facilities. You may not be able to use these facilities without being a patron but you can usually find a restroom open to the public somewhere.

  2. Pack and use your own portable toilet. This may not be the most ideal situation but far from the worst. If you can't find nice, free facilities to use, you will certainly appreciate having the privacy of a pop-up tent and a suitable toilet substitute even if it's not flushable. Just remember, you packed it in, you pack it out! Don't litter!

  3. Dig a hole. You thought that last option was bad, didn't you. You thought there was nothing that could make you want to bring and maintain your own bathroom. Well, how about digging a cathole for your bathroom? Doesn't exactly sound like fun especially if you're hit with the urge and have to suffer through digging the hole first. On top of that, there are considerations for how and where you dig your hole:

    1. Must be 200 feet from any water sources

    2. Should be roughly 6 inches deep

    3. Must be covered when finished

    4. Leave only biodegradable materials behind and everything else must be packed out. Don't litter!


It's the end of the day, you've been on the trail for who knows how long, maybe you had a rather unpleasant run-in with a muddy pit... Whatever the case may be, you will want to get cleaned up every so often for the sake of hygiene. So, like finding a toilet in the woods, how do you get showered and cleaned up in the middle of nowhere?

  1. Paid showers from campgrounds that allow it. In my overlanding trip to the Rockies, I made use of the Estes Park campground at Mary's Lake. These were paid showers, similar to a carwash in that, you insert your quarters, the water starts, and you wash up! By far the best option when on the road for extended periods and limited access to modern facilities

  2. Pack and use your own portable shower. If you're already bringing the privacy tent for toilet uses, you can double its usefulness by using it for showering as well! It's as easy and just adding soap and water!

  3. Sponge bath with a bowl, towel, and soap. If you can't spare the space or added weight, maybe you can spare a bowl for water, a washcloth, and some soap to get your body clean at the very least. Again, hygiene is pretty important so even just a basic sponge bath is better than nothing.

If the thought of being on the road, miles from anywhere, including toilets and showers, put enough fear in you to avoid overlanding, fear no more! There are certainly options and with careful planning, you can always find modern facilities for toilets and showers. If you can't do that detailed of planning or know you won't find yourself near modern facilities for quite some time, bringing your own amenities can't be beat! It does require extra space and packing out your waste but it allows you the ability to stay out on the trail even longer. Lastly, if you are really into the wild and only bringing the bare minimum or want to save weight, you can go the way of the pioneers and dig a cathole and wash up with a bowl and rag. Not the easiest way to stay hygienic but still better than nothing!

Happy Trails!

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